18 July 2011

But Nicaragua's so dangerous!

     One of the questions I got most often when I first began to talk about Nicaragua was about the masses of armed men who supposedly stood on all the street corners.   Since Nicaragua is a pretty safe place to be, I think these questions came from seeing pictures taken during the revolution of just that sort of thing.   If a war were being waged on my home soil, carrying a gun would be a good thing (although even without a war being waged on my home soil masses of people in the United States are armed).   
     Nicaragua is a poor country where a lot of poor people live, people who were poor before the world's economy tanked.   The really bad world economy hasn't made their lives any better and guns cost money most Nicaraguans don't have.   I spend a lot of time in the Caribbean port city of Bluefields and most of the handguns I see there are in the hands of a) the police, b) the military, or c) private security.   Police everywhere carry guns;  I did when I was a cop.  Much of the military presence there relates to the control of illegal drugs that travel by sea from various places in South America to various places in North America where the customers are.   Private security is a big thing in both Managua and Bluefields.   One night in Managua we wanted to walk to dinner from our small hotel near the stadium and the hotel staff insisted on sending their armed guard with us.   I don't know if that was necessary but if it was necessary it was more than a nice gesture. 
     And in Bluefields a security guard will open the door to the Tip-Top restaurant for you whether you're coming or going, politely armed with what looks like a sawed off shotgun.   None of this is to say that some citizens aren't armed, legally or illegally.   In order for a Nicaraguan to legally carry a handgun in Bluefields, he or she must apply to the local police station, have a background check, and take a short course in gun use and safety, all similar to  procedures we follow in Virginia to legally carry a concealed weapon.   If you're not a citizen of Nicaragua you don't get to legally carry a gun!
      That said, machetes are everywhere;  and as lethal as they can be, they're really hard to carry concealed.   Machetes are versatile tools used to do such things as chop down small trees, dig holes for planting flowers, cut grass, or peel oranges.   I'm cautious in Managua, in Bluefields, and in my home town in Virginia.   The world we live in can get really nasty really fast.